Using Tablets for Interactive Presentation and Assessment in Biochemistry (Mellon Project Report)

This project enabled the phased roll-out and testing of tablet-based lecturing and grading. These tools enhanced and extended student engagement and allowed for faster grading and turnaround of laboratory reports.


Explain Everything: Wireless lecturing and lecture recording

Wireless tablet lecturing is being used to present dynamic PowerPoint style lectures using the software Explain Everything. This software enables any projector to become a smart board, allowing dynamic alteration and addition to preplanned lecture content. Explain Everything also enables audio recording of lectures synced with the projected screen, creating videos for uploading to the Moodle learning management system. Video file sizes are dramatically compressed with the use of the free Handbrake open source video transcoder software.

Squid: Easy PDF grading

The tablet also enabled handwritten grading of digital submissions. This was extremely helpful for lab reports in Biochemistry.  Notating graphs or tables with only text is often extremely limiting. Using a digital pen allowed us to point out or redraw graphs and data to give students very direct, personal feedback.  The software allowed copies to the annotated assignments to be uploaded onto a cloud drive, which could then be used to digitally return the items to the students through Moodle. This also allowed a key advantage over paper submissions: a copy of the assignment and all feedback was retained for future reference.


The tablet chosen at the beginning of the project was the Note 12.2 pro, which has since been discontinued. A Note 10.1 or a Windows Surface tablet would both work just as well with the wireless display adaptor and the chosen lecturing/recording software. (A Windows tablet would need to use an alternative PDF editor like OneNote or Drawboard). Each of these devices have an active stylus. This kind of stylus is categorically better than a passive stylus and enabled us to actually draw and write legibly during lecture and when grading assignments. New Mac iPads and some other Windows-based tablets also have an active stylus option.

A WiDi or Miracast wireless display adaptor will enable any Android or Windows tablet to connect wirelessly to a projector through an HDMI port. We have used the Samsung AllShare adaptor but have also successfully used the Belkin Miracast adaptor and the Amazon FireStick. Although it is possible (and easy) to wirelessly display an Android device using a Chromecast device there is no way to prevent a student from displacing your lecture with any image or video of their choice, even from across campus, and as such we recommend against using it. Note: the iPad does not talk to WiDi or Miracast adaptors and an Apple TV is required. These are harder to integrate with the college’s system and may not be possible/easy to adapt at Austin College at this time.


  • Identified hardware and software to enable wireless lecturing and digital grading.
  • Employed tablet lecturing, recording, and grading in Biochemistry and Biochemical Metabolism (CHEM 351 and 352).  
  • Employed lecturing style in General Chemistry I and II (CHEM 111/112).
  • Prepared a fact sheet that would allow any faculty member to begin lecturing or with an old Android, iPad, or Windows tablet.
  • Used the compression software Handbrake to dramatically compress lecture recordings from ~800MB per lecture to ~80MB per lecture.
  • Used the tablet to record several chapters’ worth of example problems in General Chemistry.

Student Feedback

Student feedback on lecturing format, recordings, and digital grading has been net positive. The digital lecturing style was least well received in General Chemistry. Some early technical glitches that caused communication issues between the tablet and the projector resulted in many negative comments. Currently this problem has been greatly reduced and students have stopped mentioning that issue at the end of last semester.

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